Today, Emmalea, now nearly 18, says the medication helped her lose 75 pounds, giving a boost to the lifestyle and diet coaching she received throughout the 68-week study.
Parents of teens like Emmalea who struggle with obesity hear the same refrain: If their kids slash the sugar, eat healthy snacks instead of junk foods, and exercise regularly, the results will follow.
But for many overweight youths — as with adults — shedding pounds often proves frustrating. Gains come and go, despite good intentions.
A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that semaglutide can indeed lead to small but meaningful losses of excess bodyweight. Whether that’s enough to tip the scales, as it were, toward overall better health is unclear, but the findings have specialists in child health optimistic.
“There is a real need for safe and effective medications to treat obesity,” says Silva Arslanian, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a co-author of the new study.
Obesity is linked with decreased life expectancy and higher risk of developing serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, and certain cancers. Teenagers with obesity are also more likely to have depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, and other psychological issues.
While obesity in children has long been a public health concern, the problem has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, Melissa Ruiz, MD, with the Pediatric Diagnostic Center in Ventura, CA, says. Some of her patients who had been “chubby” pre-pandemic had weight gains of 20-30 pounds at post-pandemic clinic visits, she estimates.
Ruiz and other experts say parents should discard the notion that obesity is something children – or adults — are doing to themselves, or that they are failing their children by not keeping their weight in check.
“There are genetic components that figure into obesity, and we have to acknowledge that,” Ruiz says.
Parents should seek help from their child’s pediatrician. “If the pediatrician cannot help you, ask, ‘Where can I go?’ Say, ‘I understand that you might not be trained in this yet’ and ask for a reference for someone who can help,” Ruiz says.
This content was originally published here.